Nancy Kalish's daughter was an enthusiastic middle-schooler -- until homework started to take over, consuming her evenings and weekends. When she started dreading school, the Brooklyn mom began to grow alarmed.
Kalish teamed up with Sara Bennett, a fellow frustrated mom, to write The Case Against Homework: How Homework Is Hurting Our Children and What We Can Do About It (out this month from Crown) for parents of kids in grade school on up. Their investigation drew on academic research and inter-views with educators, parents, and kids around the country. Kalish spoke to Parenting about their findings:
How can too much homework negatively affect kids?
They don't have time to just be kids anymore -- they're so bogged down. And since many of the assignments are simply busywork, learning often becomes a chore rather than a positive, constructive experience. Homework overload is also affecting family life -- a lot of kids can't even make it to dinner, and as a result, the only interaction they have with their parents involves arguments about homework.
What are signs that your child might be getting too much?
If he starts to hate school, like my daughter did, that might be one, as are nightly hysterics over homework.
The National Education Association recommends that kids have a total of ten minutes per grade level of homework per night. Anything above that is excessive.
The bottom line is that a child will understand a concept better if he has time to work on five problems, rather than struggling to race through 50.
What can parents do?
First, talk to your child's teacher, with the assumption that he or she wants what's best for your child. Often teachers are unaware of the havoc that homework is causing.
If that doesn't work, talk to the principal about your concerns. She may agree and set policy changes in motion. Or, you may need to involve other parents and go to the school board. It may not be simple to stem the tide of homework, but parents around the country are showing it can be done.